CHINESE MONEY LEAVES TRAILS OF EXPLOITATION IN DEVELOPING WORLD
January 8 was Coming-of-Age Day in Japan. In conjunction with the day’s celebration, we learned the stunning news that one in eight of Tokyo’s approximately 83,000 new adults turning 20 this year will be non-Japanese.
Among Tokyo’s 23 wards, Shinjuku has the highest ratio of non-Japanese new adults at 46%, followed by Toshima (38%), Nakano (27%), and Taito (26%). Although no national breakdown was readily available, I think it safe to assume from the significant percentage of Chinese among foreign students in Japan that the new adults included a large number of Chinese.
Japan has a liberal policy as concerns foreign students studying here, but we must carefully consider the meaning of non-Japanese citizens accounting for close to 50% of new adults in some wards in the metropolis. No matter where they live, Chinese are under the strict direction of the Chinese Communist Party (CPC). We must watch carefully where their country is headed.
The Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee confirmed during a January 12 meeting that “Xi Jinping’s thought on socialism with Chinese characteristics in a new era” will be written into the Chinese constitution.
It will be the first time since Mao Zedong that a sitting CPC chairman will have his thought written into the constitution. Xi is aiming at elevating himself to a position of power equal to Mao’s, vowing to lead China to “proudly stand tall among the nations of the world.”
To achieve this goal, Xi blatantly resorts to China’s economic and military power. Extending enormous loans that are too huge for developing nations to repay, China heartlessly wrests lands and ports from them at will when they fall behind on repayment. If the recipient nations show signs of fighting back against China, she will restrain them by utilizing the power of her money or mobilizing Chinese intellectuals and students to exert political influence; or, if necessary, applying military pressure to get her point across.
However, a significant number of nations across the globe, including small Asian nations, are becoming increasingly alarmed by these outrages committed by China. Japan probably is the least alert to such danger. In this vein, we Japanese should bear in mind the examples below of China’s sinister global ambitions.
Last November, Nepal abruptly scrapped a US$ 2.5 billion project to construct a hydroelectric power plant financed by China at Budhi Gandaki, western Nepal. The Nepalese government allegedly felt it would have nothing to gain from the project, with China projected to mop up virtually all the profits.
The European Union suspended construction of a US$2.9 billion high-speed rail line between Belgrade and Budapest last February—a project financed 85% by China—and started a probe into whether the Hungarian government had failed to offer the project for open tender, as required under EU law.
On the Road to Ruin
Myanmar, led by the pro-Beijing Aung San Suu Kyi, is no exception. Last November, the Myanmar government cancelled construction of a US$ 3 billion oil refinery undertaken by a Chinese developer in the Dawei special economic zone in southeastern Myanmar.
Pakistan, which calls China its “Iron Brother,” has turned down a Chinese offer of assistance for the US$ 14 billion Diamer-Bhasha Dam, reportedly because the Chinese side demanded ownership of the project.
The dam site is located in the strategic territory of Kashmir, long a source of conflict between India and Pakistan and apparently sought after now by China as well.
After President Trump suspended a US$2 billion security aid program last January 4, there is no question Pakistan has intensified its leaning towards China. The nation has always been highly dependent on China, which finances a wide range of projects in Pakistan amounting to some US$ 60 billion. But the Diamer-Bhasha Dam is not the only project that has been suspended.
Near the port of Gwadar at the mouth of the Strait of Hormuz, which has virtually turned into a stronghold of the Chinese Navy, China proposed last May to additionally build an airport and a railway linking western China and Gwadar though Karachi.
But these proposals never saw the light of day as negotiations between China and Pakistan failed last November. The world was taken aback to realize that even Pakistan said no to China, on which it has so desperately depended.
In Thailand, meanwhile, a US$15 billion high-speed railway project backed by China was suspended in 2016. Construction resumed last July following a new agreement under which China will provide the technology, with the Thai private sector getting an increased share of work associated with the project.
These infrastructure projects, planned and financed by China in which Chinese corporations easily get the lion’s share of orders, can only be modified partially if and when the recipient nations complain. Dazzled by lavish loans, impoverished nations generally are unable to stop short of accepting such deals, even if they may know they are on the road to ruin.
Let us review what happened to Tanzania, which borrowed a whopping US$11 billion from China for an array of development projects, including port facilities at Bagamoyo, 45 miles north of Dar es Salaam. The agreement called for the Tanzanian government to bear US$280 million, or 2.5% of the total cost.
Tanzania, which failed to raise even this amount on its own, presumably will find it nearly impossible to pay interest or repay the principal. In other words, Tanzania has fallen into China’s debt trap. One can easily surmise what will happen to Tanzania from what Sri Lanka went through.
Last month, hard-pressed to manage the strategic southern port of Hambantota, the Sri Lankan government handed over the port to China on a 99-year lease, giving up 80% of its ownership. It was a virtual sell-out to China of the port it has financed. We all know that in 1997 China regained Hong Kong from Britain, which had ruled it for 99 years. Will Tanzania or Sri Lanka be strong enough to win these territories back from China 99 years from now?
China’s Menacing Political Maneuvers
China’s efforts to extend its power and influence are not limited to the developing world.
In Australia last December, for instance, the government of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull banned foreign donations to political parties and activist groups.
The local media reported that China was methodically implementing plans to influence Australian politics. As an example, the reports quoted opposition Senator Sam Dastyari as running counter to his party’s policy by making statements supporting China’s claim of territorial rights in the South China Sea.
The conservative national daily Sankei Shimbun reported on November 21 that the Chinese are actively engaged in political maneuvering in Australia utilizing politicians and Chinese students. It said that Attorney General Henry Brandis has expressed grave concern that the CPC is utilizing lobbyist groups and business leaders in plotting systemic political maneuvers aimed at influencing local and federal governments.
According to the daily, more than 200,000 Chinese youths currently studying in Australia operate under the directives of Chinese embassy or legation staff, frequently engaging in explicitly pro-Chinese activities such as protesting en mass against lectures that they consider unfavorable to their country.
Like cut-throat loan sharks, China behaves cold-bloodedly towards nations that are poor and powerless. With more advanced nations, on the other hand, it adroitly exerts political influence. And with all nations, China has shown it is willing to resort to military power as it feels necessary.
Hungry for funds and technology, China is amicably seeking Japan’s support of its “One Belt, One Road” initiative. On January 10, however, China sent one of its attack submarines and a frigate into the waters off the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. Three Chinese Coast Guard vessels also later violated Japanese territorial waters around the Senkakus.
It is senseless to ask why China engages in such acts while seeking improved relations with Japan. Because that is what China is all about. This is all the more reason why we must more seriously guard against the harsh reality that Chinese money is rampantly buying up our lands as more Chinese pour into Japan.
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” article no. 787 in the January 25, 2018 issue of The Weekly Shincho)